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Electricians won't be allowed to work 'live' under new guideline

22 April, 2008

Electrical contractors and electricians will effectively be banned from working on equipment operating at normal mains voltage under a new guideline Code of Practice issued by EnergySafety.

The Code applies to electrical contractors and all electricians working in general industry. It also places obligations on contractors' clients and all employers of electricians who request that live work be performed," Director of Energy Safety Albert Koenig has said.

"Working on live electrical circuits and equipment or in very close proximity to live parts is potentially dangerous and mostly places the lives of electricians at risk needlessly," Koenig said.

Loss of production, increased costs and operational inconvenience will not be regarded as justifying live work.

Under the Code, live work will be justified only if there is a greater risk of danger to lives of people using, or affected by, an electrical installation, compared with risks incurred by electrical workers asked to perform live work.

In such circumstances, a live work justification case, backed by a formal risk assessment under the Code, must be made out by the licensed electrical contractor's client, requesting that live work be carried out.  In respect of residential type installations, the Code never allows live work.

If the electrical employer is satisfied that live work is justified and it can be carried out safely, a strict safety plan must be followed, comprising:

  • The contractor must prepare a detailed work plan and set of procedures, complying with the Code, to cover the work;
  • All electrical workers involved in performing the work must agree it can be done safely;
  • A competent and independent safety assessor must approve plans and procedures if the prospective fault current exceeds 10,000 amperes at the site in question;
  • An experienced safety observer must be present at all times while the live work is under way and must have no other duties while carrying out the observer role.

Koenig said the Code provided for routine activities which generally need to be conducted while circuits are live, including testing, commissioning and location of faults.

"With this Code, we are addressing a large number and variety of situations where electrical contractors and electricians are placed under commercial pressure by their clients to perform risky live work, merely to hold costs down, keep production going and avoid inconvenience," he said.

He also noted that the guideline Code does not apply to the electricity transmission and distribution related activities within the electricity supply industry, as this sector has its own guidelines for safe work practices.

EnergySafety is currently conducting a series of industry presentations around the State at regional centres, to outline recent electrical industry legislation and technical standards changes, and this new Code.

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